Tuesday, 25 October 2011

LIVE: NME Radar Tour 2011

With the crowd sparse in attendance at this year’s NME Radar Tour at the O2 Academy Newcastle, it was up to Malin Dahlström of Niki & The Dove (Sweden’s first – no second – perhaps even fourth lady of electro-pop, with the likes of Robyn, Fever Ray and Lykki Li before her) to pull the punters in. And she didn’t disappoint. Her powerful, shrill vocals, swathed in groggy synth, constantly demanded the attention of the somewhat bemused crowd who were
clearly captivated by her Kate Bush-like immersive dance routine. The drum rumbles and trance hooks in ‘Mother Courage’ sounded flawless live and Malin Dahlström’s strange, animalistic glottal noises made it a solid, if not disturbing performance.

Storming onto the stage next with angsty self-importance was London’s post-punk/krautrockers S.C.U.M, opening with their fantastic single, ‘Amber Hands’. The chiming octave guitar chords, pounding beats and eerie fairground synths, or as the band like to put it, ‘machines/press’, were astonishing to hear live. Thomas Cohen’s Bowie-meets-Molko vocal is an instrument in itself, jittering against the onslaught of off-beat drums, cryptic sounds and jaunty bass lines in upcoming single, ‘Whitechapel’. The band are true performers - especially circus ringleader Cohen - with his spindly fingers casting a spell over the crowd.

Headliners for the evening, Wolf Gang, however were the most comfortable on stage, or should I say was, since Max McElligot is credited as the sole personification of the band. God knows why - there is astonishing chemistry between him and the other four members. Besides this, MGMT and the 80s electro-pop nuances of Talking Heads immediately sprung to mind. McElligot’s songwriting style is very advanced for his short time being recognised as an NME rising star; his choruses never fail to worm their way into your brain, with thunderous pianos, delayed guitars and sprightly falsetto harmonies. Wolf Gang are clearly the most conventional band of the night, but this is no discredit to them, since they at least got the crowd jumping to the up-beat indie pop of ‘Lions In Cages’ and swaying to the crystal-clear, angelic sounds of ‘Suego Faults’. What is refreshing overall is that NME can host a gig that shows a wealth of diverse styles breaking from the underground, and many onlookers will have left with their bellies full of wonderful, new music.

*Originally published for NSR (24/10/11)

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